Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.
Is what the sign that hangs at the entrance to Disneyland says. Past that bridge, you are an eternal kid among a sea of kids, young and old alike. A place without judgment or reproach or cares (except maybe getting a sunburn and dropping mad cash on too many Dole Whips and mouse ears).
Before I leave for New Zealand, I wanted to make it to Los Angeles for a smattering of reasons. Some of them were food related (again, the Korean corndogs from Myungrang Hot Dog), and the other was Disneyland. I’ve been to Disney parks a total of 3 times. To Disneyland when I was 4, again at 14, and Disney World when I was 20 with my friend Chris. I’m more of a thrill ride person, so I didn’t think I’d enjoy Disneyland in particular, but for some reason I felt like it was something I’d like to do before I left the continent.
Some people are really into Disney. I know people for whom Disney is practically a way of life. I mean, we all have our fandoms, but I never quite understood it. It’s kind of like being an anime nerd. I, too, used to be that intense breed of fangirl that would wear all the things and live and breath my favorite shows. It was a lot. Fortunately, I evolved into my current form, where I can compartmentalize my fandoms like an adult. I’m not going to front, I was kind of judgy about the Disney thing. There’s a time, and place for letting it out. The time and place for the Disney mania is at Disneyland.
We got to Disneyland bright and early on a Monday. Note to all, go to Disneyland on a Monday morning! There will never be a day where the park is empty, as someone somewhere is always going to be on vacation, but it was probably the best experience you could hope for. I went with a very lovely man who is what we call in Spanish an amigovio. Not quite a friend, not quite a boyfriend. So amigovio he is, but his name is Ryan and so now it’s out there. Ryan really likes Disney, so I was in the right company for this excursion. After a slightly stressful arrival (Ryan is also very punctual about Disney), we got there 5 minutes after the park opened.
So now what? We’re in there, the park is our oyster. Quite frankly, I had only ever been to Disneyland as a kid, and in that scenario, you are at the will of your family, so I’d really only ever been on a handful of rides. Disney as an adult? Quite possibly the most glorious experience.
Peter Pan, Space Mountain, Alice in Wonderland, Matterhorn, Haunted Mansion, you name it, we probably went on it. Again, I stress the Monday attendance because the longest we waited for any ride was 30 minutes (for Peter Pan), and after that it was wham bam thank you ma’am for everything. We probably went on everything we wanted by 1 PM.
Mr. Ryan had his list of desired delights he had try. First being Grey Stuff (if you recall from Beauty and the Beast “try the grey stuff, it’s delicious!’).
I had my fill of Dole Whips, which were excellent, but would be so much more excellent with a splash of rum, amirite? Same goes for the Jungle Julep.
The funny thing is, is that I went into this thinking that people’s Disney fandom was a bit odd (and some of the extreme versions, as seen above, I still do), but…I kinda got it. It is such a fun place to be, and the pure joy people have when they are there is contagious. Unlike a park full of roller coasters, you have this almost innocent enjoyment on these rides. They’re somewhere between carnival rides and thrill rides. It’s like this weird middle space that only Disneyland can occupy with its tenderhearted sweetness.
To mix in some reflective melancholy on top of all this, my last trip to a Disney place, as I mentioned, was with my friend Chris. He had that Disney fever too. For some godforsaken reason, I wore the stupidest, thinnest sandals in the world on that day. It was a Saturday, and our goal was to go to as many parks as possible in a day. We did 3 out of 4, because I wasn’t yet 21 and there was no point going to Epcot unless I could drink with Mulan.
We went on the Dinosaurs ride in Animal Kingdom first, and the part where the T-Rex jumps out at you actually made me scream and duck. Chris laughed so hard at this, and kept shouting and ducking at random things the rest of the day. His only request was that we go on Splash Mountain at some point. We rode the shit out of everything we possibly could, and by the end of the day, my feet were past the point of hurting.
“Okay, let’s go on Splash Mountain now,” he said.
I looked at the line that was spilling out of the ride with a 45 minute wait time.
“I literally cannot stand for that long. I just can’t do it. I will sit in this planter here while you go and ride it,” I said, pointing to a flower bed near a tree.
As we are debating this, this guy comes up to us and says, “Hey, my kid doesn’t want to go on the ride anymore. Do you want our fast passes?”
Chris’ eyes lit up.
We got on Splash Mountain, go down the splash, and then the ride broke down. I didn’t remember there being an actual storyline to Splash Mountain, but oh there is, and when a ride breaks down, they do not turn off the music. So there we were, log boat to log boat, trapped in this ride with this banjo music on loop for at least 15 minutes. We both just laughed and I said, “well, at least I get to rest my feet.”
Disneyland is not Disney World, as any fan will scream at you, and so there’s really no similarities between these two trips, aside from attending a Disney theme park. But I guess grief is kind of weird and funny, in that you see this person everywhere, in everything. Maybe it will always be like that, I’m not sure. I had such an amazing time at Disney World with this person that I loved and cared about (even if my perfectly straightened hair did turn into a frizz ball, much to his amusement). These seemingly normal, one-off things now seem to take on this different significance once a person is gone. It was a great, memorable time then, and it will forever be a great, memorable time.
I’m also reminded at the same time, of the importance of life carrying on as normal. Someone dies, and it’s shocking, and it’s horrible, but then you have to get up and go get groceries or whatever the next day like it’s any other day, even though a person you love is gone from your world forever. It feels weird. It feels strange. Callous, almost. I would think that time must stop, to recognize this moment. I demand that it do so. My friend was so important, he deserves for everything to just pause and everyone just sit in it for a second. I guess we can choose to do that, sit in it, for as long as we want to. But life will just keep on going, as normal.
I had an amazing time at Disneyland, also with someone I love and care about it. I can’t stop enjoying these things that life is throwing my way. Chris is in all of it. He’s always been in all of it, and he will always be. That’s great and good, and yet there is room for more, and others. More joy, more love, and plenty more tears and aching feet I’m sure.
Weirdly, Disney now holds a special place in my heart. Maybe now it will be this place where I can simultaneously enjoy all of those old memories of fun and friendship and love, while making new ones too.
Cue cheesy Disney song like “You’ll Be In My Heart” or something.